COP27: Polluters must pay for climate change, poor nations tell rich

COP27: Polluters must pay for climate change, poor nations tell rich
Talks at the second day of COP27 focused on compensation for smaller and poorer countries for the effects of climate damage.
18 min read
08 November, 2022
Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, whose country experienced devastating floods earlier this year, speaks during COP27 in Egypt [Getty]

Leaders from poor countries criticised wealthy governments and oil companies for driving global warming, using their speeches on Tuesday at the second day of the COP27 climate summit in Egypt to demand that they pay up for damages being inflicted on their economies.

Small island states already buffeted by increasingly violent ocean storms and sea-level rise called on oil companies to shell out some of their huge recent profits, while developing African states called for more international funds for adaptation.

As this took place, demands continued for the release of jailed activist Alaa Abdel Fattah who is still on hunger strike in Egypt. 

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was reportedly expected to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Tuesday to raise the case of Abdel Fattah.

Former British PM Boris Johnson called on Monday for Cairo to immediately release the British-Egyptian.

Abdel Fattah has entered his third day of a water strike following over 200 days of consuming just 100 calories a day, to protest his continued detention.

He is among the most high-profile of the thousands of political prisoners held by Egypt.

5:53 PM
The New Arab Staff

This concludes The New Arab's live coverage of COP27 for today. Follow The New Arab on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest news and developments on the climate conference happening in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. 

5:50 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Macron tells France's heavy polluters to cut emissions, pledges aid

President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday told France's biggest polluters they should cut their greenhouse gas emissions by half over the next decade and said there would be more public money available to help decarbonise the economy if they acted quickly.

Oil and gas group TotalEnergies, cement-maker Holcim and steelmaker ArcelorMittal were among those invited to the Elysee Palace to listen to Macron, who wants France to be a leader in cleaner industry. The country aims to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Addressing executives whose companies operate France's 50 most polluting industrial sites, Macron said that if they alone reduced their emissions at these plants by half the country's greenhouse gas output would drop by 5%.

"We're going to fight to have more public and private investment to accompany this," Macron told the executives.

Industry accounts for just 10% of jobs in France but 20% of national greenhouse gas emissions, according to official data. The 50 dirtiest industrial sites accounted for half of those emissions - equivalent to the emissions of roughly 4 million people in France.

Macron said the government would double the 5 billion euros hitherto budgeted for helping decarbonise industry if the executives presented plans to cut emissions within 18 months.

He said he could not discuss greening-up French industry without making reference to the United States' Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) law.

Paris, Berlin and other European capitals fear the IRA, which among other incentives provides tax credits for eligible components produced in a U.S. factory as well as a tax credit on the cost of new or upgraded factories that build renewable energy components, will take investment away from Europe.

"I don't think it's in line with World Trade Organization rules. I don't think it's friendly," Macron said, adding he would raise the issue when he visits Washington next month.

Macron on Monday said at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt that while the world was distracted by a confluence of global crises, it was important not to sacrifice national commitments to fight climate change.

During Macron's tenure, the state has twice been fined by France's highest administrative court for failing to improve air quality in major cities and ordered by another court to do more to fight climate change.

5:35 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

UN experts at COP27: Corporate climate pledges rife with greenwashing

Promises by companies, banks and cities to achieve net zero emissions often amount to little more than greenwashing, according to a UN expert group report published on Tuesday, which set out proposed new standards to harden net zero claims.

The report, released at the COP 27 climate conference in Egypt, is intended to draw a "red line" around false claims of progress in the fight against global warming that can confuse investors and policy makers.

At last year's climate negotiations in Glasgow, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed 17 experts to review the integrity of non-state net zero commitments amid concerns about "a surplus of confusion and deficit of credibility" involving corporate green boasting.

The report by the group, chaired by Canada's former environment minister Catherine McKenna, found that "too many of these net zero pledges are little more than empty slogans and hype", she said during a news conference launching the report on Tuesday.

"Bogus net zero claims drive up the cost that ultimately everyone will pay," she said.

An estimated 80% of global emissions are now covered by pledges that commit to reaching net zero emissions.

The report set out a list of recommendations that companies and other non-state actors should follow to ensure their claims are credible. For example, a company cannot claim to be net zero if it continues to build or invest in new fossil fuel infrastructure or deforestation.

The report also dismisses the use of cheap carbon credits to offset continued emissions as a viable net zero strategy, and recommends companies, financial institutions, cities and regions focus on outright emissions and not carbon intensity - a measure of how much carbon is emitted per unit of output.

The report "gives companies, investors, cities, regions - and by implication, countries - a clear statement of what 'good' looks like", said Thomas Hale, a global public policy researcher at Oxford University and co-leader of the Net Zero Tracker project which measures the effectiveness of such pledges.

"We need to be clear that most net zero targets are not on track," he told Reuters, noting the tracker found that only half of companies with pledges have robust plans.

"Corporations have long hidden behind net zero announcements and carbon offsetting initiatives, with very little intention of really doing the hard work of transforming and cutting emissions," said Teresa Anderson, global lead for climate justice at poverty-eradication non-profit ActionAid International.

"These recommendations will aim to keep them in line and close any loopholes."


5:31 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Ukraine's Zelenskiy says climate policy impossible without peace

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has distracted world governments from efforts to combat climate change, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message played at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt on Tuesday.

"There can be no effective climate policy without the peace," he said, highlighting the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on global energy supplies, food prices and Ukraine's forests.

"This Russian war has brought about an energy crisis that has forced dozens of countries to resume coal-fired power generation in order to lower energy prices for their people ... to lower prices that are shockingly rising due to deliberate Russian actions."

"(It) brought an acute food crisis to the world, which hit worst those suffering the existing manifestations of climate change ... the Russian war destroyed 5 million acres of forests in Ukraine in less than six months," Zelensky said.

Ukraine this year is hosting an exhibition space for the first time at a U.N. climate conference. But unlike the other booths at the COP27 festooned in colorful logos, flags and greenery, Ukraine's stood out for its bleakness - covered in gravely grey and black to symbolize the war at home.

Zelensky, who wore a trademark green T-shirt and faced the video camera from behind a desk, criticised world leaders for paying lip service to climate change without delivering real change. He did not name individual states.

"There are still many for whom climate change is just rhetoric or marketing ... but not real action," he said.

"They are the ones who hamper the implementation of climate goals, they are the ones in their offices who make fun of those who fight to save life on the planet, although in public they seem to support the work for the sake of nature."

"They are the ones who start wars of aggression when the planet cannot afford a single gunshot because it needs global joint action."


4:45 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Oman energy minister sees oil prices going down after winter

Oman's energy minister Salim al-Aufi said on Tuesday he saw oil prices coming down from the range of $90 a barrel after the winter season.

"We don't believe that the current prices are sustainable comfortably," he told Reuters on the sidelines of the COP27 climate conference in Egypt's coastal city of Sharm El-Sheikh.

"We believe after the winter season they will go down ... we think it will go to a much more comfortable position in the 70s," he said.

Aufi said Oman set the oil price for its budget at $55 a barrel to give a comfortable cushion to pay its debt but that he did not think prices would go down that much.

"We do have a lot of debt to pay so if we budget at $55, anything above a $55 price will go towards paying the debt," he said.

Aufi also said the upcoming December 4 OPEC+ meeting in Vienna would largely be driven by the messaging out of Europe on whether the continent was going into a recession or not.

If Europe's message was that it still expected a recession and higher interest rates, OPEC would again consider the question "do we have oversupply," he said.

Aufi said he had not seen any data yet and that OPEC+ could move either way, depending on whether the group believed the market was over-supplied.

At its October 5 meeting the OPEC + alliance, which groups OPEC and its allies including Russia, agreed a 2 million barrel per day (bpd) output cut that triggered a war of words with some in the West, with the U.S. administration calling it "shortsighted".

OPEC+ producers have rallied around top oil exporter and de facto OPEC leader Saudi Arabia after Washington accused it of pushing some members into the cut.


2:52 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

WTO chief seeks to revive green trade talks

The head of the World Trade Organization aims to revive negotiations on a global environmental trade deal, she told Reuters, as part of efforts to give the trade watchdog a bigger role in tackling climate change.

Talks on scrapping tariffs and other trade barriers on goods such as solar panels or smart-heating controls that can address climate change are seen as an important step towards cutting the cost of environmental protection.

But WTO discussions collapsed in 2016 after disagreements between China and Western countries about which products should be on the environmental list.

"We would like to see the revival of an environmental goods and services agreement," Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters on the sidelines of the COP27 climate summit late on Monday.

She said the talks should also be expanded to include services. These could include air pollution mitigation or wastewater treatment.

"You need to have a friendly trade regime for renewables and other environmentally-friendly products," she said, noting tariffs for fossil fuel products are lower than for renewables in many countries.

The global trade body's ability to strike multilateral deals has been in doubt after a years-long drought but the clinching of agreements in June has helped to restore faith and renew ambition.

Exploratory discussions about a possible revival of a green trade deal have begun at the 164-member WTO body, although Okonjo-Iweala said some countries had expressed concerns, without naming them.

She suggested beginning with a preliminary list of some 50 or 60 products that could be lengthened gradually.


1:59 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Abdel Fattah's sister speaks at packed press conference at COP27

Alaa Abdel Fattah’s sister, Sanaa Seif, spoke today at a press conference hosted by the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, as world leaders met for a second day at the COP27 summit in Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh.

Seif spoke movingly about her brother’s grave situation, saying:

"I asked the British authorities to get some proof that Alaa is alive and conscious. I did not get any response.

Right here in this conference centre the Egypt’s Foreign Minister - who is also the COP President - has been giving interviews saying there’s nothing to worry about and that the prisons have medical facilities. President Sisi made a commitment to President Macron that Alaa’s health will be preserved.

These statements really worry me. Are they force-feeding my brother right now? Is he handcuffed in a bed, put on IVs against his will?

This is what it sounds like to me.

We know that they are happy for him to die, the only thing they care about is that it doesn’t happen while the world is watching.

But the world is watching and it’s not only watching the Egyptian authorities but also other governments, including the UK government and other Western governments complicity in our oppression, who benefit from our oppression. Everyone always talks about how strong the UK and Egypt’s relationship is. Is torturing a dual citizen part of that relationship?

This has to end. It can end. There are three ways for it to end:

Let the British embassy visit him. Or put him on a plane out of Egypt today. Or he will die, and he will be relieved of this nightmare."

1:11 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Austria commits $50 mln for climate 'loss and damage'

Austria will provide 50 million euros (dollars) to developing countries facing unavoidable damage and losses caused by climate change as it joins a small group of European nations to offer such funds, the country’s climate ministry told Reuters.

Compensation linked to extreme weather and global warming has leapt up the political agenda at the U.N. climate conference taking place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Under pressure from developing nations, countries have agreed to hold their first formal talks on loss and damage, shorthand for cash rich polluters would pay to poorer states facing unavoidable damage from worsening floods, drought and sea level rise.

Just four other governments - Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Scotland - have committed small amounts of loss and damage funding, breaking ranks with other rich nations that have resisted such payments for fear of spiralling liabilities for their outsized contribution to causing climate change.

Austria will provide at least 50 million euros to tackle loss and damage over the next four years, the climate ministry said.

The funds could support the "Santiago Network", a U.N. scheme providing technical support to countries faced with damages from climate-fueled natural disasters, and a programme providing early warning systems to countries prone to extreme weather.

"The most vulnerable countries in the Global South are suffering particularly badly from the consequences of the climate crisis – and are rightly demanding more support from industrialised countries," climate minister Leonore Gewessler said.

She said Austria would also add another 10 million euros to this year's budget for climate finance.

"Austria is taking responsibility," Gewessler said.

Climate campaigners have said, however, that the trickle of one-off commitments is no substitute for consistent support.

So far, the amount pledged falls far short of the billions of dollars in losses already suffered by vulnerable countries hit frequently by extreme floods, drought and storms.

Cyclone Idai caused some $1.4 billion in total damage and $1.39 billion in losses when it struck Mozambique in 2019, and some research suggests that by 2030, vulnerable countries' climate-linked losses could reach $580 billion per year.

Developing countries want countries to agree at COP27 to launch a funding facility, dedicated to loss and damage. The United States and 27-country European Union - of which Austria is a member - have previously opposed the idea.

Saleemul Huq, an adviser to the Climate Vulnerable Forum group of 58 countries, welcomed Austria's funding, saying the forum expected Austria and others to support a deal on a dedicated loss and damage fund at COP27.

"Every country announcing funding for the loss and damage from human induced climate change is most welcome," he said.


12:53 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Egyptian-British hunger striker's life in great danger, UN rights chief says

The life of jailed hunger striker Alaa Abd el-Fattah is in great danger, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said on Tuesday, renewing a call for Egypt to immediately release him.

Abd el-Fattah, a prominent activist and blogger, was sentenced in December 2021 to five years on charges of spreading false news and has been on a hunger strike for 220 days against his detention and prison conditions.

He informed his family that he would stop drinking water on Sunday in an escalation of his protest. His mother says she did not receive the usual letter from him when she visited on Monday.

He "is in great danger. His dry hunger strike puts his life at acute risk," Turk said in a statement.

Without water, Abd el-Fattah's health could rapidly deteriorate. The escalation of his protest coincides with the COP27 climate summit, the United Nation's annual gathering of world leaders to discuss global warming being held this year in Egypt.

Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the U.N. top human rights official, said Turk had personally spoken with Egyptian authorities to appeal for Abd el-Fattah's release, most recently on Friday.

Asked whether there was a risk he may have already died, given the lack of communication, Shamdasani told a briefing in Geneva: "We are very concerned for his health and there is a lack of transparency as well around his current condition."

Abd el-Fattah's detention has become a prominent issue at the COP27 summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, which his sister is attending to campaign for his release.

Asked about the case, Egyptian Foreign Minister and COP27 President Sameh Shoukry told CNBC that prison authorities would provide Abd el-Fattah with healthcare. Egyptian officials have not responded to Reuters phone calls for comment on Abd el-Fattah. They said previously that he was receiving meals.


12:44 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Hunger striker's mother says his condition in Egyptian jail unknown

The mother of Egyptian-British hunger striker Alaa Abd el-Fattah says she received no letter when she visited the prison where he is being held and has no way to verify his condition, two days after he was due to stop drinking water.

Laila Soueif said she waited outside Wadi al-Natrun prison on the outskirts of Cairo for 10 hours for a weekly letter from her son, usually delivered on Monday. No letter came out, the family said.

"They alleged that he is refusing to release a letter, that is not unwell but he just won't send out a letter," Soueif said in a video message late on Monday. "I don't have any physical proof that Alaa is alive and conscious."

Abd el-Fattah rose to prominence during Egypt's 2011 popular uprising but has been detained for most of the time since then. Sentenced most recently in December 2021 to five years on charges of spreading false news, he has been on hunger strike for 220 days against his detention and prison conditions.

He escalated his protest this week, as world leaders gathered in Egypt at the start of the COP27 climate summit, an annual United Nations gathering.

Soueif said she would return to the prison on Tuesday to resume her vigil. "I will come back here tomorrow, but I hope that during this time, any entity is able to confirm that Alaa is alive and conscious."

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday he had raised Abd el-Fattah's case with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and that he hoped to see the issue resolved as soon as possible.

Asked about the case, Egyptian Foreign Minister and COP27 President Sameh Shoukry told CNBC prison authorities would provide Abd el-Fattah with healthcare.

"This is a matter of personal choice, and again it is dealt with within the penal system, within the rules and regulations that govern it," he said.

Egyptian officials have not responded to Reuters phone calls for comment on Abd el-Fattah. They said previously that he was receiving meals.

Abd el-Fattah's family said he was only consuming minimal calories and some fibre to sustain himself earlier in the year, and that he is very frail.

The family say Egyptian officials have declined to recognise his British citizenship, which the family announced earlier this year he had obtained through his mother, who was born in London.

Shoukry said the Egyptian legal procedure for dual citizenship "has not as yet been fulfilled" in Abd el-Fattah's case.

Some rights campaigners have criticised the decision for Egypt to host COP27, citing Cairo's long crackdown on political dissent in which rights groups say tens of thousands have been detained. They have also raised concern over access and space for protests at the United Nations climate talks.

Sisi has said security measures were needed to stabilise Egypt after the 2011 uprising.


11:57 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

UAE, Egypt ink major wind energy deal on COP27 sidelines

The United Arab Emirates and Egypt agreed Tuesday to develop one of the world's largest wind farms in a deal struck on the sidelines of the UN's COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh.

The 10-gigawatt (GW) onshore wind project in Egypt will produce 47,790 GWh of clean energy annually once it is completed, the UAE's state news agency WAM said in a statement, without specifying an exact timeframe.

It will offset 23.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions - equivalent to around nine percent of Egypt's current CO2 output, according to WAM.

The wind farm will also save Egypt an estimated $5 billion in annual natural gas costs and help create as many as 100,000 jobs, it said.

Emirati President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan joined his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the signing of the agreement between the UAE's Masdar renewable energy firm and Egypt's Infinity Power and Hassan Allam Utilities.

In a statement on Twitter, Sheikh Mohamed said the deal was "consistent with our commitment to advance renewable energy solutions that support sustainable development".

The UN's COP27 climate summit kicked off Sunday in Egypt with warnings against backsliding on efforts to cut emissions and calls for rich nations to compensate poor countries after a year of extreme weather disasters.

"We will endeavour to take forward the gains made here at COP27, as the UAE prepares to host COP28 next year," WAM quoted Emirati industry minister Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber as saying.

COP28 will be held in the UAE from November 6-17, 2023.

More to follow on this...

9:59 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Small island nations want Big Oil to pay up for climate damage

Small island nations suffering the brunt of climate change want Big Oil to pay for mounting damage from ocean storms and sea-level rise, Antigua's prime minister told delegates at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt on Tuesday.

The comments by Gaston Browne kicked off the second day of speeches from heads of state and government at the two-week conference in the seaside resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

"The oil and gas industry continues to earn almost 3 billion United States dollars daily in profits," Browne said, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States.

"It is about time that these companies are made to pay a global carbon tax on their profits as a source of funding for loss and damage. Profligate producers of fossil fuels have benefited from extortionate profits at the expense of human civilization. While they are profiting, the planet is burning."

Senegal's President Macky Sall told the conference poor developing nations in Africa were also insisting on increased funding for adaptation to worsening climate change, and would resist calls for an immediate shift away from fossil fuels that could drive economic growth.

"Let's be clear, we are in favor of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. But we Africans cannot accept that our vital interests be ignored," he said.